Northwestern's Kevin Coble is one of more unknown prospects in high-major basketball; he also happens to be one of its most productive players. Last season he made the admirable decision to skip the first two months of his team's season in order to be with his mother as she fought breast cancer in Phoenix, Arizona, which undoubtedly affected his production when considering his sophomore season as a whole.
Capable of playing multiple positions at the collegiate level, the 6'8, 200 pound Northwestern junior averaged 15.9 ppg (48.1% FG, 38.9% 3FG, 81.3% FT), 5.4 rpg, and 1.8 apg last season. Though his NBA outlook is not extremely bright, Coble has the chance to emerge as one of the best players in a very weak Big 10 as well as one of the better shooters in the country. 34 and 37 point games against Michigan and Indiana (shooting a combined 26 of 34 from the field) gave us a glimpse of just how productive Coble can be when he catches fire on any given night.
Standing 6'8, but possessing a very slight frame, Coble projects as a shooting specialist at the next level. The real problem, however, is that he lacks NBA-caliber quickness and athleticism, which will likely always limit his long-term upside ultimately. Still, there have been plenty of players to make the NBA after finding their unique niche, which is exactly what Coble must now focus on.
Offensively, Coble does a majority of his damage shooting spot up jumpshots, which, according to Synergy Sports Technologies account for 41.5% of his offense. Despite the good reputation that comes along with a 38.9% perimeter shooting percentage, Coble's shooting mechanics are far from perfect. He has an unorthodox looking jumpshot, bringing the ball up from his chest and releasing his shot far away from his body, deliberately but fairly quickly; he lands with his legs far apart and does not get nearly as much elevation as a player of his size should. Regardless, when given a second to set his feet and take aim, Coble is absolutely outstanding on the catch and shoot, which makes him quite a threat on the perimeter considering his excellent size at 6-8.
Arguably Coble's largest improvement last year was his expanded offensive repertoire. While he still attempted over four perimeter jumpshots per game, he showed an expanded mid-range game, using fakes and pull-up moves to get his shot off. He does not have a good first step, but he did improve his ball handling to the point where he was able to somewhat overcome his athletic deficiencies. Similarly, while he lacks the bulk to take much contact around the basket, he did a slightly better job of slashing to the hoop, though this is an aspect to his game that displays limited potential due to his poor physical tools. His post game is similarly developing. He'll likely never be strong enough to bang in the post in the physical Big 10, let alone the NBA, but Coble was able to score in the post last year thanks to some decent moves, including an improved turnaround jumpshot.
Arguably his biggest asset besides his shooting, however, is his basketball IQ. Coble is a smart player who passes well in the perimeter as well as from out o the post. He moves extremely intelligently, knowing how to get open off of screens (10.3% of his offense) and by cutting (22.6% of his offense). Sometimes he does not know his limitations, particularly attempting shots off the dribble, but for the most part he is a very smart basketball player.
Defensively, he uses his length well to harass shooters on the wing and to get into passing zones, but outside of that, his athletic limitations, particularly his poor lateral quickness, will never allow him to be a good defender: even at the collegiate level. Considering the quickness and athleticism of NBA guards and wings, Coble will be an incredible defensive liability should he make it to the next level.
There has been talk of shooting specialists like Kyle Korver, Jason Kapono, and Steve Novak when discussing Coble's future (although he's not quite at that level yet), and while he will always get his fair share of looks considering his perimeter prowess and productivity in the Big 10, the odds will be very much stacked against him. This season, he must improve his defense and continue to put on nightly scoring exhibitions if he wants a look in the future. It is very safe to say that Coble will be a four-year college player, but at this point, it is essential that he maintain relevance in the eyes of NBA scouts by producing heavily.